So, it’s that time of year again and as the schools head back, college years start up again and the security industry gears itself up for a busy few weeks of work. The schools returning usually marks the end of the festival season and this weekend’s Electric Picnic brings another big summer to an end for the event security sector. It’s down to business time now for us all, students and professionals alike. The security industry plays a huge part over the next few weeks in educating the new student population in the way things are done as they venture out into the big bad world. However, it’s also important to note how important the student sector is to the security industry both in terms of providing work and talent to the sector. Over the next few weeks we as an industry have an opportunity to create a brand-new pool of customers for our venues, influence a brand-new set of talent to our industry and we need to do the right thing on both counts.
The Value of Students
The value of third level education to the Irish economy is huge. Overseas students alone contributed over €300 million per year in recent years. They contribute to the rental system, retail stores, restaurants, pubs and clubs in a huge way and are the reason behind a significant amount of security jobs throughout the country. Consider how many door supervisors, retail security, campus security and other event security operative jobs are supported by the student economy. On top of this consider the number of new entrants to the security industry that come from the student population. Young educated and eager to earn money, new entrants who support a significant portion of unsocial hours in addition to college to make ends meet. The reality is that in college and university cities the student population and the security industry are intrinsically linked. Without students, we lose jobs in the industry and without security parents don’t send those kids to those colleges.
A new opportunity
This September represents a whole new opportunity for both populations. While the members of the security industry in campus security teams, night time venues and retail stores attempt to babysit a whole new set of first years into life in big towns and cities we also have a fantastic opportunity. Of course, sometimes students are wild, silly, irritating and downright crazy but we were all young and adventurous once and we (mostly) all grew up . Most of these students will secretly be a little nervous, a little scared and trying to fit into a whole new world of friends and experiences. Our opportunity as a security industry is in taking these new group of students and creating a group of loyal customers for our workplaces for the next 3 to 4 years at a minimum. It won’t be easy and patience will be tried at times but it can be worth it. Developing a supportive rapport with this new group not only means repeat business this year but for the next few years and not just from this group but in the word of mouth to next year’s cohort and the year after that.
Change the culture
I’m glad to see the culture of the security industry change. I don’t want to see an industry which is feared, disliked and ridiculed by another generation. I know it hasn’t always been our fault but we haven’t marketed ourselves that well to young people over the years either. We need young people to view the security industry as adding value to their lives. Whether that’s in a shop, a club or walking on campus we need to be a support service as well as an enforcement service. Safety and not fear is the concept and we all have a part to play in that. We all try to professionalise this industry every day we go to work and this is an opportunity to show what we can do. New year, new start and new opportunity.
If we want a bright future for this industry the student population is a great starting point for talent as well. Students have always made up a percentage of the security industry but over the past few years that portion has grown. I see it on training courses every week and we see it played out in the decreasing average age in the industry. Now before everybody jumps on the ‘the industry is full of kids nowadays’ bandwagon can we just put a little perspective on it. I started in the security industry as a teenager and so did many of you, if not then soon afterwards. I was naïve reckless and a little stupid at times but I’d like to think I got better with experience. Attracting young third level educated people to a growing security industry can only make it better.
Educating the new flock
Another group of new students we will have in the coming weeks is the large bloc of people who got PSA licences in the summer and have come through their first long summer of major events (congratulations to those who made it) . While a lot of these will head back to other careers a certain group will look to continue in the industry. After the glamour of standing in the sunshine, rain and mud of the summer concerts it’s down to the nitty gritty of regular security work for the next few months and an opportunity to learn some new skills. While they will have learned the value of hard work and some good security principles over a busy summer the real security fundamental will be learned when they venture into the world of door security and static security in the coming months to make ends meet. When this happens, the onus is on the more experienced operatives out there to be a role model for the next generation. That means not looking down on the new guy, not giving them all the crappy jobs until they got frustrated and leave and not dropping them in at the deep end. A little time spent with the newer members and a little advice and mentoring when it’s needed goes a long way. We were all novice students of this industry once after all.
If we want to make this industry better the best way to do it is to make the next generation better than we were. That means the next generation of employees and the next generation of customer. This week’s first year students will be the engineers, teachers, solicitors, parents and security operatives of the future. Let’s leave them with the correct impression of our industry while we go about earning a living.